NZOSS Wins Patent Opposition

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The NZOSS is pleased to announce that its opposition to New Zealand patent application 536149, filed by Microsoft in relation to XML word processing documents has been successful. Yesterday we were informed by IPONZ that Microsoft has withdrawn their application.

The NZOSS applauds the decision of Microsoft to abandon its attempt to use the legal system to inhibit interoperability through its software patent on XML word processing documents. As we move into a future increasingly dependent on technology and software we hope Microsoft understands that open standards and interoperability are central to a robust and healthy computing environment.

Legal barriers preventing competition around standards is a great detriment to the public good. We encourage Microsoft to join with the overwhelming majority of the New Zealand ICT Industry and support the decision of the New Zealand Government to exclude software patents, thus protecting Microsoft's business in New Zealand from future patent threats. Microsoft's decision will not only remove the Sword of Damocles from above the heads of our own members, but those of the entire New Zealand ICT community.

Peter Harrison, Vice President of the society made a statement yesterday informing the membership of Microsoft's decision to withdaw, saying "I am of course very pleased with the result. It will provide certainty about the ability of commercial entities to inter-operate with Microsoft formats without concern about patent infringement. Along with the exclusion of software patents in the pending Patent Bill we should see a environment that is far less risky for software development than in other countries. This in combination with our highly skilled people makes New Zealand an excellent location for developing software."

The NZOSS has been conducting Patent Oppositions against two XML patents filed by Microsoft since 2003. The NZOSS felt these patents presented a clear and present danger to both interoperability between Microsoft's products and that of other vendors, and potentially would have allowed Microsoft to force other companies into patent licensing agreements in order to implement word processing documents in XML.

The opposition to both of the Microsoft XML patents has taken eight years to resolve, and the time and commitment of many of our members. A few years ago, after opposing the first patent, we agreed to a substantial limiting of the claims of the first patent to such an extent that we don't believe anyone will ever infringe it. Subsequently we opposed the second patent, and have been moving towards a hearing on the opposition.

Peter Harrison added "The decision by Microsoft to abandoned the second patent application in the face of our opposition has substantially vindicated our position; that is that these patent applications were not patentable inventions." He continue to thank those involved with the opposition, saying "I must thank the efforts of those who made this effort possible. Matthew Holloway played a vital and professional role in his detailed and objective analysis of the patent. I'm sure there are few people with the expertise of Matthew around XML and office productivity formats. Without his help we might not have been able to mount such a compelling case. And to our lawyers - Ellis|Terry - who did a great job of executing this opposition, words can hardly express my gratitude for their commitment to seeing this through to the conclusion today."

 

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